Prenda Appellate Saga Comes To An End

Congratulation to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC defendants who will soon be dismissed from the AF Holdings, LLC v. Does 1-1,058 (Case No. 1:12-cv-00048) case filed TWO YEARS AGO in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Seeing that the appellate (circuit) court came out with a ruling this afternoon, I read the circuit court’s ruling with fervor thinking that I was about to write an article entitled “the jig is up, no more copyright trolling lawsuits.” Well, I am underwhelmed.

If you remember the Judge Beryl Howell CREATES A SPLIT in the DC Court article I wrote back in August, 2012, at the time, thousands of “John Doe” Defendants from across the U.S. were being sued in the US District Court in DC, and Judge Beryl Howell was in favor of allowing the mass bittorrent lawsuits to continue in DC, even though other district court judges [not former copyright lobbyists for the Recording Industry Association of America] (notably, Judge Wilkins, now a United States Circuit Judge) wrote opinions questioning the validity of mass bittorrent lawsuits. As a result of this, now almost two year later, we have a circuit court ruling resolving the question of whether “personal jurisdiction” and/or “joinder” are relevant questions for a court to investigate before it signs an order invoking the “machinery of the courts” to force a non-party ISP to comply with a subpoena [asking for them to turn over the private contact information of each subscriber implicated as a “John Doe”].

Judge David Tatel [writing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit] wrote a few pointers that we already knew, and in my opinion, the circuit court’s ruling is two years, too late. The ruling is essentially that a court may justifiably force a plaintiff “copyright troll” to establish that it has PERSONAL JURISDICTION over the John Doe Defendants who are implicated in the lawsuit BEFORE it allows that copyright troll to obtain [through discovery] the list of names and addresses belonging to the internet subscribers. His opinion, however, resolves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the hundreds of smaller John Doe (e.g., v. Does 1-20) lawsuits filling the courts’ dockets across the U.S., where the “copyright troll” plaintiffs have figured out that “you sue a defendant where a defendant lives.”

Next point. When requesting the subscribers’ contact information from an ISP, the plaintiffs purpose must be to gather this information for use in THIS LAWSUIT, and not for other proceedings or other lawsuits. Good luck enforcing this one. I have no doubt that we will still see defendants dismissed from one “v. Does 1-20” lawsuit, only to be named and served in his own “v. John Doe” lawsuit. This happens every day. Also, good luck stopping a copyright troll from calling up dismissed defendants and saying, “unless you settle with us, we will name and serve you in your own lawsuit.”

Then after glossing over the “you must sue a defendant in the state in which he lives” rule, thirteen pages later, Judge Tatel discusses joinder (who can be sued together as co-defendants in a lawsuit).

I thought the joinder discussion would be juicy, but it was vague and vanilla, and it lacked explanation. The ruling was essentially that “you can only sue John Doe Defendants together in one lawsuit as long as they were part of the same bittorrent swarm.” This precludes plaintiffs who often sue defendants who did the same “crime” of downloading copyrighted films using bittorrent, but they did so days or weeks apart. In mentioning what is considered the “same bittorrent swarm,” the judge mentioned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING as to what the scope of a bittorrent swarm is, and how long one lasts — whether a swarm continues for minutes, days, or weeks at a time — and who is properly connected in a bittorrent swarm to be sued together in a lawsuit.

All I pulled from his discussion is that “if Tom and Dick were downloading at the same time, they can be sued together in a lawsuit; joinder here would be proper.” However, if Tom finished downloading and logged off five minutes before Dick logged on, would this be considered the “same transaction or occurrence” to allow the two of them to be sued together? What happens if Tom finishes downloading and logs off, and by the time Dick logged on to the bittorrent swarm, everyone who was part of that swarm [e.g., all 10 or 20 people] also logged off and new people logged on. If Dick is downloading from a completely different group of downloaders than the group who was online when Tom was downloading, but they downloaded five minutes apart, is this the same bittorrent swarm or a different bittorrent swarm? The judge provided ABSOLUTELY NO ANSWER as to the scope of a bittorrent swarm, so we are still left with uncertainty.

…So you see why I am underwhelmed. The ruling was essentially, “personal jurisdiction, bla bla blah, joinder, blah blah blah.” I learned nothing new from this, and yet the media is jumping all over this as if it is some kind of jewel. NOTHING NEW HAPPENED HERE.

Putting all of this in perspective, if you think about only the issue that Judge Beryl Howell wanted the appellate court to answer, “whether personal jurisdiction and joinder are relevant in a discovery request to obtain information about not-yet-named ‘John Doe’ defendants who are identified merely by their accused IP addresses,” Judge Tatel did exactly what he needed to. He correctly answered, “yes, personal jurisdiction and joinder are relevant when the plaintiff attorneys ‘attempts to use the machinery of the courts to force a party to comply with its discovery demands.'”

Thus, when a copyright troll files a lawsuit against unnamed John Doe defendants, and they seek discovery to force an ISP to comply with a discovery request (e.g., a subpoena forcing them to hand over the contact information of the accused subscriber affiliated with that accused IP Address), issues such as personal jurisdiction and joinder ARE ripe for inquiry before the court grants the copyright troll permission to subpoena the ISP, forcing them to hand over the contact information of the accused “John Doe” defendants.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

shalta boook now cta

Judge Beryl Howell CREATES A SPLIT in the DC Court.

There is a balancing act in this post as to how to make it NOT deathly boring, and how do I convey the information you need to understand what you have in front of you. Here we go.

Judge Beryl Howell once again issued a scathing opinion favoring copyright trolls and ruling against John Doe Defendants, their ISPs, the EFF, and everyone in favor of making these cases go away once and for all. However, there is a twist here in her decision, so read on.

In the AF Holdings LLC v. DOES 1-1,058 case (Case No. 1:12-cv-00048-BAH, Doc. 46) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Howell wrote a 42 page opinion essentially regurgitating all of her opinions of “judicial economy,” “personal jurisdiction,” “joinder,” whether an ISP has standing to file a MOTION TO QUASH on behalf of their subscribers’ arguments, and whether a subscriber’s MOTION TO QUASH is “ripe” for adjudication.

I want to be clear that this order is not written to the John Doe Defendants filing motions to quash, but to the ISPs who filed motions to quash on behalf of their subscribers.  To put it into context, this order is written to the ISPs telling them why they must comply with the subpoenas requesting their subscribers’ information.  However, her opinion has clear implications as to what a John Doe Defendant needs to be aware of if he decides to file a motion to quash in her court.

Restating her opinion of these cases, Judge Howell believes the following:

1) Copyright trolls have a right to sue defendants for sharing content over the bittorrent network.

PERSONAL JURISDICTION
2) “Personal jurisdiction” over a John Doe Defendant is IRRELEVANT before that defendant is “named and served” as a defendant in a lawsuit.

3) The proper place for a NAMED defendant to assert a lack of personal jurisdiction is in a responsive pleading (e.g., the “answer”) under a FRCP Rule 12(b)(2) motion.

4) A motion to quash by an unnamed defendant is NOT the proper place to assert improper jurisdiction.

JOINDER
5) “Joinder” — the question of whether the various John Doe Defendants are properly sued together (e.g., based on the “bittorrent swarm” theory) is IRRELEVANT before those defendants are “named and served” as defendants in a lawsuit.

6) Only NAMED defendants (not ISPs, not John Doe Defendants) may assert improper joinder.

7) A motion to quash by an unnamed defendant is NOT the proper place to assert improper joinder.

“JUDICIAL ECONOMY” (CONVENIENCE OF THE COURT)
8) It is more economical to deal with 1,000+ defendants in one lawsuit rather than dealing with the identical issues in 1,000 lawsuits.

Now essentially, as much as Paul Duffy, John Steele, and everyone at Prenda Law Inc. are overly excited about their wonderful order, there is not much that is new in this order that we didn’t know from Judge Howell’s previous orders.

Her breakdown of WHY MOTIONS TO QUASH DO NOT WORK, however, was astounding.

In her opinion, she states that NOWHERE IN THE FEDERAL RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE DOES IT SAY THAT A THIRD-PARTY MAY FILE A MOTION TO QUASH BASED ON IMPROPER JURISDICTION OR IMPROPER JOINDER.

Her words: “The plaintiff is correct that lack of personal jurisdiction and misjoinder are not delineated under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure [“FRCP” Rule] 45 as bases to quash a subpoena issued to a third-party [e.g., an ISP]. Indeed, third-parties cannot assert these defenses as a basis to dismiss the underlying action because, if either of these flaws did exist in the underlying action, they must be raised, and may be waived, by named defendants.  See FRCP Rule 12(b)(2) (lack of jurisdiction must be asserted in a responsive pleading [e.g., in the “answer”]); FRCP Rule 21 (“Misjoinder of parties is not a ground for dismissing an action…)” (emphasis added)

You can find a link to the actual order here.

MY OPINION:
This ruling is just another one of Judge Howell’s many opinions essentially saying the same thing.  The issues that inherently plague these cases (“jurisdiction,” “joinder,”) are unimportant to her, because as far as she is concerned, the copyright trolls have done everything properly according to the letter of the law.  Further, as far as she is concerned, there is no need for these smaller “John Doe 1-5” cases that we see Lipscomb & Eisenberg filing on behalf of Malibu Media, LLC, Patrick Collins, Inc., K-Beech, Inc., and the like.  Rather, just sue hundreds or thousands IN ONE CASE in HER DC COURT and she’ll let it go on indefinitely while the copyright trolls extort thousands of dollars from each defendant.

Further, as I have said before, JUDGE HOWELL (A FORMER COPYRIGHT LOBBYIST) DOES NOT CARE IF COPYRIGHT TROLLS EXTORT MONEY FROM JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS.  She even clearly states it here:

“At this stage, the plaintiff is attempting to identify those infringing… That the plaintiff chooses, after obtaining identifying information, to pursue settlement or to drop its claims altogether is of no consequence to the Court.

MOVING FORWARD FROM THIS CASE:
Luckily, however, Judge Howell is just one judge in one small federal court, and her opinions ARE NOT BINDING on other federal courts outside D.C.  And, even in D.C., we have a clearly an opposing opinion by Judge Wilkins, who has killed a number of bittorrent cases.  In short, Judge Howell has created a CLEAR SPLIT IN THE D.C. COURT which she has certified for interlocutory appeal.

What this means is that D.C. now has two opposing sets of case law, each which says the law is something opposite from what the other says it is.  For this reason, Judge Howell has authorized an immediate interlocutory appeal to a higher court so that these issues of jurisdiction, joinder, and the other issues discussed in the case (not discussed here) can be decided once and for all by a higher court.


CONTACT FORM: If you have a question or comment about what I have written, and you want to keep it *for my eyes only*, please feel free to use the form below. The information you post will be e-mailed to me, and I will be happy to respond.

NOTE: No attorney client relationship is established by sending this form, and while the attorney-client privilege (which keeps everything that you share confidential and private) attaches immediately when you contact me, I do not become your attorney until we sign a contract together.  That being said, please do not state anything “incriminating” about your case when using this form, or more practically, in any e-mail.

shalta boook now cta

At what point does a “copyright troll” stop being a troll?

At what point does an attorney stop being a copyright troll?

Anyone who knows me knows that John Steele [one of the original trolls from 2010] and I are not the closest of friends. In our many conversations, I have told him quite frankly that I considered him an enemy, and I have told him [and the world] what I think about his lawsuits.  We have sparred over the years over the forums, over clients, over settlements, and to date, everyone knows what I think about his copyright trolling efforts — the “grand extortion scheme” him and his local counsel have foisted over countless victims.  Together, Steele’s law firm — whether it is under the name “Steele Law Firm, PLLC,” “Steele Hansmeier, PLLC,” “Prenda Law Inc.,” (or even more recently, “Joseph Perea, P.A.” [although I have no idea if Joseph Perea is acting on his own, or whether this is a “fake” company, and he is still working under Prenda Law Inc.]) — has inflicted painful damage over the retirement accounts and savings accounts of COUNTLESS people (many of whom had NOTHING to do with the downloading or the hacking they were accused of doing).

The big elephant in the room has always been “open wi-fi”. Yet guilty or not, people still pay up, and John Steele profits.

The concerning thing about John Steele is that even he refers to himself as a copyright troll, and he appears to be proud of it.  However, while the classic definition of a “troll” is an enterprising attorney who has taken advantage of the legal system (or a loophole or a weakness in it) for his client’s material benefit, I understand a “copyright troll” term in the bittorrent lawsuit context to more commonly mean “an attorney or a company who sues many internet users for the purpose of extorting multi-thousand dollar settlements from the accused, regardless of whether or not they are guilty, AND who has NO INTENTION OF MOVING FORWARD AGAINST ANY OF THOSE DEFENDANTS IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE.” In short, a copyright troll is someone who sues a lot of people and demands settlements through robocalls, “scare” letters, and threatening phone calls, but who has NO INTENT to move forward against those individuals should they decide not to settle.

The problem is that I’m not so sure that definition still holds, because John Steele, along with his threateningly growing number of local counsel across the U.S. are naming defendants.

RECAP: Initially, John Steele sued hundreds and thousands of defendants at a time, most of whom did not live in the state in which they were sued. Those were the older cases, most of which have all gone bust because the courts lacked PERSONAL JURISDICTION over the defendants. That was where we saw the “Congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who were SEVERED AND DISMISSED from [whatever] lawsuit” posts in 2010-early 2012. Then Steele smartened up. He (though his local attorneys) started filing SMALLER CASES where in many cases, the defendants lived in the states in which they were sued. Hence JURISDICTION WAS PROPER. However, even there, John Steele was still a copyright troll.

But, eventually people caught on that JOHN STEELE WAS NOT “NAMING” ANYONE AS A DEFENDANT, and no doubt his cases lost any credibility the might have had. Even judges started calling his cases a grand extortion scheme, and even in the news today, SOME JUDGES are shutting down his cases IMMEDIATELY before you — the accused bittorrent user — learned that you are sued. In other words, their initial “MOTION FOR EARLY DISCOVERY” to send subpoenas to the ISPs to learn the identities of the IP addresses / John Doe Defendants are here-and-there beind DENIED. But even here, John Steele is still a copyright troll.

Where John Steele loses the status of “copyright troll” is when he starts going after individual defendants in the courtroom. Once he files a First Time Videos, LLC v. James Swarez (a fictitional name), and James is now dragged into a lawsuit kicking and screaming and is forced to hire an attorney to file an “answer” with the court, and then James needs to give up his computer to some sleazy digital forensics experts hired by the attorneys (or he can hire his own), and he has to actually fight a real copyright case on the merits of whether or not he actually downloaded the copyrighted works he was accused of downloading in the lawsuit, well, at this point, John Steele is no longer a copyright troll, but rather, John Steele becomes merely a predatory attorney who is suing someone on behalf of his client for the violation of his client’s “copyright rights.”

Now the shift that is important to note is that in the olden days, John Steele did not name anybody. He never did, and for a while, many thought he never would (except perhaps one here or there just to prove to the courts or the world that he could and would name defendants).

However, the new strategy is that he *is* naming defendants. In fact, below is a list of defendants (for their own privacy [so that their names do not show up on search engines following this post — because PACER court documents often don’t get indexed on the search engines, but my posts do], I have edited out their last names, except for a few notorious cases) who have been named in their lawsuits (and this list is a crude list, some of which are state cases, and I even know of a few cases which are not on here):

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN ALABAMA
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Dewey W., 05-CV-2012-900893 (Dewey W.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN ARIZONA
First Time Videos, LLC v. Gary P., 2:12-cv-01488-ROS (Gary P.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Adam Sekora, CV2012-053194 (Adam Sekora)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN CALIFORNIA
AF Holdings LLC v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03076-LKK-KJN (Francisco R.)
AF Holdings LLC v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05633-JSC (Vu C.)
AF Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 3:12-cv-02049-EDL (Josh H.)
AF Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 5:12-cv-02048-HRL (John B.)
Boy Racer Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-06634-DMR (Daniel C.)
Boy Racer, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-01935-LJO-SKO (Anthony N.)
Boy Racer, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05628-JCS (Samuel T.)
Boy Racer, Inc. v. Philip W., 2:11-cv-03072-MCE-KJN (Philip W.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03074-KJM-CKD (Jeff G.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03075-JAM-JFM (Kenneth S.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:11-cv-05634-JCS (Seth Abrahams)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-03826-DMR (Soukha P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 4:11-cv-05630-YGR (Liuxia Wong)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 5:11-cv-05631-PSG (Isaac K.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Reza S., 37-2012-00100384-CU-BC-CTL (Reza S.)
Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03080-MCE-KJN (Joe V.)
Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe, 3:12-cv-00792-MMA (Tyree P.)
Pink Lotus Entertainment, LLC v. John Doe and Steve P., 2:11-cv-03073-WBS-KJN (Steve P.)
Pink Lotus Entertainment, LLC v. John Doe, 2:11-cv-03077-JAM-KJN (Jason A.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Myron H., 12-CV-0952 (Myron H.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN ILLINOIS
First Time Videos LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08334 (Arthur S.)
First Time Videos LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08335 (Arthur H.)
First Time Videos LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08336 (Christopher P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08333 (Jason S.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08337 (Jamie P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08339 (Gerald G.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08340 (Edward N.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08341 (Erik S.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08342 (Stilan P.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08343 (Hyung K.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:12-cv-01053-MMM-JAG (Matt R.)
Hard Drive Productions, Inc. v. John Doe, 1:12-cv-01104 (Robert R.)
Pink Lotus Entertainment, LLC v. John Doe, 1:11-cv-08338 (Klint C.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Lucas S.,2012L000927 (Lucas S.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Michael A., 2012L000530 (Michael A.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Ronald T., 2012L000531 (Ronald T.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Tom B., 2012L95 (Tom B.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN NEVADA
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Adam G., CI12-2625 (Adam G.)

DEFENDANTS NAMED IN TEXAS
First Time Videos, LLC & AF Holdings, LLC v. John Doe, 4:12-cv-00535 (Tingwei & Chinatsu L.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Austin C., C-133,846 (Austin C.)
Pacific Century International, LTD v. John Doe, 4:12-cv-00536 (Stephen C.)
Lightspeed Media Corporation v. W.T., Inc., CV2012-053230(W.T., Inc.)

In sum, as you can see, John Steele (through Prenda Law Inc. and his local counsel) are naming defendants, and one-by-one, they are hiring new counsel in a number of states to file against individuals. Now does this mean that John Steele is no longer a copyright troll? Maybe, maybe not. The point is that he is taking the “next step,” and he is forcing more and more individuals into litigation.  This is a concerning trend.

MY OPINION: Will he come after you? Quite frankly, with the tens of thousands of individuals he has sued, this small list is only a sliver of the huge pool of defendants who have been sued (NOT “NAMED”), who have been dismissed, and who are somewhere in between. The point though, is that while once upon a time John Steele did not name defendants, now he does.

On a personal note, I am saddened by writing this post, and as much as I always love to write the “we won!” articles (and THERE ARE SO MANY OF THOSE OUT THERE that don’t make it onto this blog), a defendant that calls my office needs to understand that there IS a risk that they might be named as a defendant at some point in the future. As we have said before, it is important that both current defendants AND DISMISSED DEFENDANTS should keep an eye out for Prenda Law Inc. filings in their state. The way they can do this is by going to the http://www.rfcexpress.com website, and watching what is going on in their state. Until a Prenda Law Inc. client (e.g., Hard Drive Productions, AF Holdings, First Time Videos, LLC) files against a John Doe or against a named defendant in a particular state, it is safe to assume they are not yet there and quite frankly, in my opinion, the risk of getting “named” is quite low. But then again, you need to be vigilant even after a dismissal, and for this reason, I have written this blog post.  This simply was not the case just a few months ago.

Why California Malibu Media Case Consolidations are Bad.

malibu-media-case-consolidations

UPDATED 2020 SUMMARY: Case consolidations (until this post) happened when a federal judge lumped together different cases which all suffered from the same flaws, e.g., improper jurisdiction, improper joinder, etc. and they dismissed them all in one order. This was a good thing! However, when a troll-friendly judge consolidated a plaintiff attorneys case to keep the cases alive — to manage the dockets in order to avoid inconsistent rulings — while these types of case consolidations were good for the court (and for justice), it was a bad thing for the defendants accused in those copyright infringement cases.

case-consolidations-malibu-media
Gamopy / Pixabay

This post is not going to be one of your favorites, because not all my posts are going to similar to my “Malibu Media Goes Down in Flames” article (or the many other positive ones I have written to date).

In short, when a judge consolidates a copyright troll’s cases, those case consolidations are usually a good thing. In the “olden days” (meaning, two years ago), lawsuits used to have literally THOUSANDS of John Doe Defendants in each case. The problem was that when those monster cases would fall, they would make a huge thump sound and thousands of defendants would go free with one judge’s order.

As we predicted many months ago, the newer lawsuits would be smaller with fewer John Doe Defendants in each case. That way, if a “Malibu Media, LLC v. Does 1-10” case went bust, there would be twenty other cases still standing. Plaintiff attorneys quickly figured this out and started to sue just a few defendants in each lawsuit.

Personal Jurisdiction (“Improper Location of Lawsuit”)

Similarly, in the older cases, plaintiffs would clump together defendants from all over the country and they would sue them in the WRONG STATE.

Obviously the rule the copyright trolls overlooked at the time is that “in order to sue a defendant, you need to sue a defendant where the DEFENDANT resides,” not in the court which is closest to the plaintiff attorney’s Chicago office. This was the issue of PERSONAL JURISDICTION (or more accurately, “improper jurisdiction”), where the plaintiffs would sue defendants in the wrong courts.

However, the end result of suing people from across the US in one federal court is usually are case consolidations by the judges (resulting in a follow-up order dismissing the cases).

However, more and more, we see with the Malibu Media, LLC bittorrent cases and the copyright infringement cases from other plaintiff attorneys (e.g., Jason Kotzker, Mike Meier, etc.), they are purposefully suing defendants in the CORRECT STATES so jurisdiction in most cases IS proper.

Thus, by suing defendants where they live, Malibu Media has successfully avoided case consolidations for improper jurisdiction.

Joinder (“Suing the Wrong Defendants Together”)

In mostly every bittorrent case, there is still the issue of JOINDER which we have written about too many times to list. In short, in order to properly join together MULTIPLE DEFENDANTS in the same lawsuits, those defendants needed to have done the SAME CRIME AT THE SAME TIME. The actual legal terminology is the “same transaction or occurrence.”

In the bittorrent world, that essentially means that the bittorrent users (now John Doe defendants) needed to have taken part in downloading and uploading copyrighted Malibu Media’s movies in the same bittorrent SWARM.

Case consolidations have killed large sets of copyright infringement lawsuits where each of a plaintiff attorney’s cases are plagued with the same inherent flaws: they sue groups of John Doe Defendants for activities they participated in at unrelated dates and times.

While this argument of improper joinder does not become relevant until a defendant is “named” as a defendant (meaning, served with paperwork which means they are no longer a John Doe, but their real name has been listed in an “amended complaint” in the case’s docket), it is still a problem with pretty much EVERY bittorrent case today (with exception of the various lawsuits by Kevin Harrison and Paul Lesko in his 4Twenty lawsuits where they sometimes sue the swarm rather than specific John Doe Defendants). However, it is not relevant to this discussion of case consolidations, but it was still worth noting.

The Problem With The Smaller “John Doe” Lawsuits – Different CASE LAW in the same court.

The problem many copyright trolls are now facing in the courts is that NOW THAT THEY HAVE CHANGED THEIR LAWSUITS TO SUE SMALLER NUMBERS OF DEFENDANTS, they usually “forget” to inform the court of RELATED LAWSUITS that they have also filed against other bittorrent users (this violates a number of federal courts’ local rules which could jeopardize their many cases).

Different Judges Give Inconsistent Rulings

The result of the plaintiff attorneys not telling the courts of the HUGE NUMBER OF LAWSUITS IN EACH COURT (you can look them up on http://www.rfcexpress.com just to see a few examples) is that each case gets assigned to a different judge (copyright trolls love this and actually rely on this when forum shopping), and each judge interprets the law as he understands it.

In short, not linking the case together results in some bittorrent cases being dismissed by some judges in one court, and in some bittorrent cases (against other John Doe Defendants) being allowed to proceed by other judges in that same court. In short, not informing the court of related lawsuits results in INCONSISTENT RULINGS by different judges in the same district court.

[This is called a SPLIT in the court’s decisions (even though the term “split” usually indicates judges from one jurisdiction (e.g., Southern District of New York) ruling one way, and judges from another jurisdiction (e.g., Central District of California) ruling another way.]

Case Consolidations Give Consistent Rulings

Case consolidations are the easiest way to avoid inconsistent rulings.

The wonderful result we have seen from the torrent of lawsuits that have flooded the dockets of many federal courts across the U.S. is that judges have begun to CONSOLIDATE CASES and give one ruling that affects ALL OF THEM. In other words, no more inconsistent rulings.

As exciting as the idea of case consolidations might be, for a while, we thought that when a judge consolidates cases, it is for the purpose of shutting them all down together (“the bigger they are, the harder they fall”). Such case consolidations have happened to a few attorneys’ cases already, and CASE CONSOLIDATIONS USED TO MEAN THE DEATH OF ALL THAT PLAINTIFF ATTORNEYS’ CASES. However, this is no longer the case with today’s case consolidations.

As we learned in the Southern District of New York when Judge Forrest clumped together all of Mike Meier’s bittorrent cases, we thought these case consolidations were the end of Mike Meier’s lawsuits once and for all. WRONG. Now, months later, we understand now that Judge Forrest consolidated the cases merely so that she can MANAGE THEM TO AVOID INCONSISTENT RULINGS. To our shock and horror, Judge Forrest had no interest in killing Meier’s cases.

Now comes Leemore Kushner‘s new bittorrent cases in the Central District of California, all from the Malibu Media, LLC (a.k.a. the “X-Art.com”) plaintiff. Following the copyright troll strategies of Jason Kotzker, Chris Fiore, Adam Silverstein, and Mike Meier, Leemore Kushner (see http://www.kushnerlawgroup.com [great website, by the way; almost as good as Kevin Harrison’s website]) filed a whole bunch of cases in the California Central District Court. However, she failed to tell the court that all of her cases were all related (oops).

As soon as Judge Klausner took over the case, he noticed Malibu Media, LLC’s other cases, most of them filed by Leemore Kushner (and three by Adam Silverstein):

CASES FILED BY LEEMORE KUSHNER OF KUSHNER LAW GROUP IN THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 8:12-cv-00647)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 8:12-cv-00649)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 8:12-cv-00650)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 8:12-cv-00651)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 8:12-cv-00652)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03614)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03615)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03617)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03619)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03620)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03621)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03622)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-03623)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04649)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04650)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-04651)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04652)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-04653)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04654)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04656)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-04657)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-04658)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04660)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04661)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-04662)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-05592)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-05593)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-05594)
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-05595), and

CASES FILED BY ADAM M. SILVERSTEIN OF CAVALLUZZI & CALLALLUZZI IN THE CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
Malibu Media LLC v. John Does (Case No. 2:12-cv-01642)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-01647)
Malibu Media LLC v. Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-01675)

Seeing all of these cases, no doubt the issues of copyright trolling, extortion, clogging up the court’s docket, and whether Kushner actually intends to take these defendants to trial or not was on his mind… or was it? I’m not so sure. Judge Klausner ordererd case consolidations of Kushner’s cases with an ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE why these cases should not be dismissed for… LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION?? [different topic, their jurisdiction was fine. Keep reading.]

In short, here are a large number of cases, and if Judge Klausner was against these copyright trolling / extortion-based lawsuits, he would have asked Leemore Kushner to explain to the court why these cases should not be dismissed for any of the other INHERENT FLAWS in these bittorrent cases, but NOT PERSONAL JURISDICTION.

Malibu Media, LLC just solved the Personal Jurisdiction problem.

The reason I say this is because IF THERE IS ONE THING MALIBU MEDIA, LLC GOT RIGHT IN THEIR LAWSUITS, IT IS PERSONAL JURISDICTION. You could be damn sure that is Leemore Kushner sued someone in California, then THEY LIVE IN CALIFORNIA. If Jason Kotzker sued someone in Colorado, then THEY LIVE IN COLORADO. The plaintiff attorneys have too much common sense from the mistakes of the past two years to sue people in the wrong jurisdiction.

In summary: I am not happy about the case consolidations.

For this reason, I am sad to say that I am not jumping up and down for joy about the fact that all these case consolidations took place, because I do not think they are going bust just yet. Anyone that speaks to me knows that I believe these cases have some really bad flaws which, if taken to trial, would cause Malibu Media, LLC to LOSE EVERY TIME.

However, I suspect Malibu Media knows this as well which is why the game for them is to 1) sue John Doe Defendants, 2) settle as many as they can, 3) “name” those who do not settle, 4) settle those who are named for a higher amount, 5) go for a default judgement ($750 + ~$2K attorney fees, or $30K + attorney fees, but I’ve never seen a $150K default judgement), or dismiss those who are named, 6) re-file individually against those who did not settle, 7) settle with higher stakes, and 8) rinse and repeat.

In short, I’m not so optimistic about the Malibu Media case consolidations, and neither should you be. Until we see the words “improper joinder,” “scheme,” or “extortion” come out of this judge’s mouth when discussing case consolidations, it looks to me as if we have a troll-friendly judge who just wants to manage these cases.

You can see his order here.


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Comcast Fights Prenda… Victory for its subscribers!

Congratulations to the Texas Millennium TGA, Inc. defendants who (with the assistance of their Comcast ISP) will never have their information shared with Prenda Law Inc., Doug McIntyre (Prenda’s local counsel), or Millennium TGA, Inc. Essentially, you have won your case because the copyright trolls will never know who you are (without great effort).

In short, as we discussed back in our “Forum Shopping” article on 5/16, Millennium TGA, Inc. made the mistake of suing the same “John Doe” defendants in Texas as they did two weeks before in DC. This wasn’t a mistake — the judge that was assigned to their DC case (referred to as “MILLENNIUM TGA I“) — Judge Wilkins — was known to be unfriendly to copyright trolls. As soon as Prenda Law Inc. figured this out, they dismissed MILLENNIUM TGA I, and using their local attorney Doug McIntyre in Texas, they filed “MILLENNIUM TGA II” [Millennium TGA, Inc. v. John Doe (Case No. 4:11-cv-04501)] here in the Southern District of Texas.  When the Texas judge gave the okay for Prenda to demand the names of the subscribers from their ISPs, Comcast recognized the similarities of the John Doe Defendants to the DC case just dismissed, and they refused to comply with the rubber stamped subpoena given to Millennium TGA, Inc. by the Texas judge. Millennium TGA, Inc. (through Prenda Law Inc., their attorneys) filed a lawsuit against Comcast in DC (MILLENNIUM TGA, INC. v. JOHN DOE (Case no. 1:12-mc-00150), also referred to as “MILLENNIUM III“) asking the court to force Comcast to comply with the Texas judge’s subpoena and hand over the names, addresses, and contact information for the subscribers implicated in the MILLENNIUM TGA II Texas case.

Then, after an adverse ruling by the DC court which [in its order by Judge Alan Kay, order now overturned] forced Comcast to comply with the subpoena, John Seiver (Comcast’s attorney) wrote an amazing appeal which resulted in the DC case being transferred back to Judge Wilkins — the enemy of the copyright trolls. We wrote about this in our “Comcast wins battle against Millennium TGA & Prenda. Subscribers lose.” article on 5/29.

Now, almost one month later, I am happy to share that Judge Wilkins issued the order we have been looking for all along. In his ruling this Monday, he DENIED Millennium TGA, Inc.’s motion to compel Comcast to comply with the subpoenas (and hand out the subscribers’ information). In other words, congratulations to the Cashman Law Firm, PLLC clients who have been entangled in this mess — your plaintiff attorneys Prenda Law Inc. and their local counsel Doug McIntyre will likely NEVER know who you are. In addition, congratulations on your victory in your Texas case, because without knowing who you are, they cannot name you as a defendant, and they cannot move forward against you. Score!

Food For Thought Moving Forward:
Okay, here is the silver lining. For those of you who do not have Comcast as your ISP, your Texas case is moving forward as usual. Similarly, for those of you who do not live in Texas, Judge Wilkins has ordered that Comcast turn over to Prenda Law Inc. ONLY the CITY AND STATE which is linked to your accused IP address. That way, if Prenda wishes to file a follow-up lawsuit against you, they can sue you in your home state’s federal court… or not. Here is my thinking.

Remember the “two-strike rule” in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) Rule 41?? — a dismissal in the Texas court in a number of John Does’ cases would be the second dismissal [which is deemed to be “on the merits.”] This could preclude your copyright trolls from filing suit against you a THIRD time in your home state’s federal court. See DieTrollDie’s “Two Strikes and You’re “Out!” – FRCP 41 & Copyright Trolls” article, and for more discussion on the topic, see Sophisticated Jane Doe’s “A Trolling Lawsuit Ends With Style” article here.

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